Grays Ferry soon will add its first retail development in more than four decades.
“I’ve often feared that seeing change for this neighborhood, especially this lot, is like turning around a battleship in a bathtub,” Francis McCann said June 4 at 3000 Grays Ferry Ave. “My hope is that today will be a big step in the right direction.”
The resident of the 2900 block of Wilder Street had just caught the completion of Wyomissing-based Carlino Development Group and Bala Cynwyd-situated Lamm Realty Group’s announcement to transform the vacant space into a retail mall. Developers declared they have landed two tenants for what will mark the environs first new commercial stretch since the 1972 genesis of the Grays Ferry Shopping Center, 29th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue.
“We’re of the opinion that this is going to revitalize the Grays Ferry Avenue Corridor,” Carlino President Peter Miller said of plans to have Bottom Dollar Food and Rite Aid serve as anchors to the 3.1-acre expanse with an undisclosed cost. “That will come through job creation and opportunities to enhance health and wellness.”
With desired assistance from Wyomissing’s Customers Bank, Miller’s company, which is overseeing Penn National Gaming Inc.’s plan to obtain a Category 2 slot machine licence to operate Hollywood Casino Philadelphia at 700 Packer Ave., is making the venture its second area project following interaction with the Tasty Baking Co.’s former North Philly facility. It has coupled with Lamm to own the Grays Ferry territory since 2007 and had desired an earlier implementation.
“Like many others, we had economic setbacks to surmount,” Al Williams, Lamm director of government affairs and community liaison, said. “However, we’re full steam ahead now.”
A division of North Carolina’s Food Lion LLC, Bottom Dollar opened its first Philadelphia store in April ’11, furthering its parent organization’s desire to offer discounted, nutritionally-sound options. Rite Aid has long enjoyed a local presence, including its location at 3000-02 Reed St. The mall endeavor will call for that store’s closure and for sections of Oakford Street to become available for the free-standing buildings and parking. Once erected, the structures will total 32,500 square feet and will have generated at least 100 construction jobs. Second District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has initiated talks with Lamm personnel to see that training sessions place Grays Ferry and Point Breeze inhabitants in a favorable position for the other vocations.
“Today is a celebration,” Johnson said. “This vision of hope really picked up last year, with the overall idea being not to let this site continue to be a barren land. I’m excited about seeing our residents obtain gainful employment.”
Gerald Johns, a legislative aide to 186th District state Rep. Jordan Harris, whose assisted neighborhoods include Grays Ferry, agreed with his colleague.
“For some time, it seemed as if certain parts of this community would become a food desert,” he said, noting Bottom Dollar stands to present an alternative to less than stellar meals and snacks. “We have huge support from established developers, and we’ll hold them to their promises to set these buildings and future spots up for success.”
Having waited at least 30 years for something to replace Koo’s Trading, the most recent lot occupant, McCann had heard last decade that a bank might appear there and also had learned of talks of mixed development use. With formally-dressed individuals breaking ground on the undertaking, which should result in Bottom Dollar’s opening by Thanksgiving and Rite Aid’s shortly after, he no longer needs to worry that powerful people have forgotten about his domain.
“We have Pathmark in the shopping center,” he said of a standout element of the Trevose-headquartered Korman Commercial Properties’ 83,505-square-foot realm, “so we’re not destitute, but this will give people more of a choice and should attract other amenities.”
Williams divulged the committed tenants could quickly come to welcome a health center and a veterans’ housing facility. No matter who will situate a concept along the traffic-heavy thoroughfare, the chief players and their peers are counting on each addition as a plus for Grays Ferry and the corridor.
Representatives from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia held a May 8 community meeting at Center City’s Philadelphia School to update their Schuylkill Avenue expansion project, revealing they intend to construct a clinical research and operations facility on a nine-acre stretch below the South Street Bridge.
“I attended and think the idea is awesome,” Theresa Vinson, of the 2700 block of Dickinson Street, said of the four-phase brainchild, the first component of which will see a 26-story, 500,000-square-foot building with 600 parking spaces concluded by ’17. “I’m actually more enthused about the other ideas, though.”
The Grays Ferry dweller learned the overseers want to extend the Schuylkill River Trail, whose boundaries do not include South Philly destinations, to Christian Street and to link it with the Grays Ferry Crescent, Schuylkill Avenue and Wharton Street. An avid bicyclist, she will welcome each trail trek with gratitude for what can come from committed investors in communal growth.
“South Philly is definitely becoming a huge contributor to the city’s overall image, so I’m glad these developers are going to get started on so many ambitious projects,” Vinson said.
The Virginia native also reveres the presence of South of South’s Toll Brothers Naval Square residential community, 2420 Grays Ferry Ave., which Johnson likewise acknowledged as another key contributor to the corridor’s reputation as a viable commercial and communal location.
“Even during my early days as a state representative, I’ve wanted this area to be seen as something worth investing in and therefore caring about,” the Point Breeze native said of his most recent role as Harris’ Harrisburg predecessor. “I’m confident we’re going to see tons of good things coming from these partnerships and the unions they’re going to create.”
The politician then joined the groundbreaking, with participants lifting and flicking patches of dirt before sharing suggestions on what else could inhabit the land.
“I’m going to use each store,” Vinson said. “I love that something useful is going to be a few blocks from me. I could play a cynic and say ‘It’s about time,’ but I’m going to be appreciative and wish for everything to go well.”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
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